Common Reading Experience

Welcome to the Common Reading Experience

The goal of the Common Reading Experience is to provide an avenue for discussion among students, faculty, administration, and members of the Durango community. It is hoped that the ideas in the selected book will generate discussion and writing in a variety of disciplines and will allow students to see these ideas come alive on campus. It provides a relatively easy way to begin a more rigorous discussion of the book’s ideas, with faculty adding more and more academic and difficult texts to the curriculum.  There are several ways that everyone can engage with ideas in the book.  The author visits campus and meets students; relevant exhibits in the Center for Southwest Studies are often produced; the Theatre Department may produce a play around the related themes, as may the departments of Art and Music.

2014 - 2015 Selection

Dead Man WalkingDead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty that Sparked a National Debate
by Sister Helen Prejean

For the Fall 2014 semester, the Common Reading Experience book selection is Dead Man Walking: The Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty that Sparked a National Debate, by Sister Helen Prejean.

In her book, Sr. Helen, a Roman Catholic nun, describes what it looks and feels like to walk a man on Death Row to his execution. As spiritual advisor to several men convicted of vicious crimes, Sr. Helen comes to know them well. She is horrified by their crimes; she is horrified that they themselves will be killed. But she accompanies these men to their death so they will not be alone. Equally important for Sr. Helen, is to be sure the victims’ families are not alone. She founded SURVIVE a support group to help each family survive its unimaginable grief.

In colleges and communities, Sr. Helen is committed to igniting conversations about the death penalty. She believes civil dialogue will help us think clearly and thoughtfully in order to develop our own points of view and arguments about the subject. The college and the local community will host several events in the fall of 2014 around the book’s themes: a reading of the play by Tim Robbins, films, a DVD produced by Bruce Springsteen, an opera, a panel discussion, a KDUR radio program, and an art exhibit. Sister Helen will speak at Fort Lewis College’s Whalen Gymnasium on Tuesday, October 21, at 7 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend all Common Reading Experience and Durango community events.

According to a book review in the New York Times, this book is “Deeply moving…Sister Prejean is an excellent writer, direct and honest and unsentimental … She almost palpably extends a hand to her readers.”